Global Newsmaker: Jen Corlew

Oxfam's head of media Jen Corlew talks to PRWeek about the challenges of keeping a global campaign in the media spotlight and how digital communications has impacted on the voluntary sector.

Oxfam head of media: Jen Corlew
Oxfam head of media: Jen Corlew

How does Oxfam use PR to spotlight the plight of Pakistan?

Aid agencies are often some of the first on the scene after a humanitarian disaster such as the ongoing floods in Pakistan.  The most important role PR plays is in gathering human stories and getting them back to the UK media as quickly as possible.  Illustrating the devastating impact the floods are having on local families through personal stories and pictures, and showing the valuable work that Oxfam is doing in the area, is the most effective way to encourage the British public to support the fundraising appeal.  Well-known faces are often the best way to help the public to connect with the story.  Boxer Amir Khan travelled with us to flood-effected regions of Pakistan last week – his emotional TV interviews from the scene have now reached millions of viewers.

How do digital communications  e.g blogs, Twitter, Facebook aid your work?

Digital comms is integral to our work, whether we are communicating with our supporters, sharing information during humanitarian emergencies, urging people to take actions or raising awareness about the impact of poverty worldwide. Since Oxfam is working in over 100 countries and has access to incredible stories and hard to reach locations, sharing information through blogs, twitter, Facebook, Youtube and others opens a window for interested audiences. But it can be frustrating when our staff and partners overseas want to use social media and send video/audio clips, but struggle with access to the right technology and deliverable bandwidth.

What media do you digest on the move?

Each morning the TODAY programme is my wake-up call, which stays on while I drive to work. My Iphone delivers the headlines from bbc.co.uk, the New York Times, the Guardian and the Financial Times. During the day my Press Association and Google news keyword alerts come through every few minutes and in the evening, the Huffington Post is waiting on my blackberry.


What challenges do you face in keeping campaigns in the media spotlight?

Some of the most serious problems we work on, such as ending violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and curbing climate change, require years of dedication to achieve real change. Therefore it can feel to the media that we are reselling an old story, so we must constantly repackage and reinvent stories to offer a fresh angle.  Team brainstorms are essential for our creativity and have yielded ideas such as an Edocumentary and an overnight London Aquarium climate change photoshoot.

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